It’s iQuest Time Again!

It’s iQuest Time Again!

Are you a college student seeking a life-changing experience? We are looking for you! With teams filling in on our 2021 schedule, we are ready for a new group of iQuest interns to come from June 5th to August 19th!

Working with ACE staff and volunteer teams for the summer is just the ticket for adventure, growth and renewal. What an opportunity to go outside your comfort zone, learn new skills and make a lasting difference in the lives of others, while making friends to last a lifetime.

We are slowly getting back into our busy world after a year spent on “pause”. As our time at home comes to an end but before our schedules become overwhelming again, spend the summer with ACE! Discover the ways that God can use your energy and talents to connect to so many who need a smiling face and a helping hand. Go online today to sign up to be a 2021 iQuest intern – and find your new home away from home!

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A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters

We’ve been blessed to have Emily and her sister, Mary, as leaders and contributors to ACE for many decades. Both have led multiple teams – Emily through school mission groups and Mary leading medical trips – and both recently came down to serve with ACE together. Emily had some thoughts on her time with us in January:

If you have ever spent any time on an ACE trip, you’ve most likely helped with some type of construction work, painting, or mixing concrete. Or you’ve been part of a bucket brigade hauling rocks, loved on infirmary residents and helped with P.E. for students at a school. Or maybe you’re from the medical profession and have been a part of clinics and dental care.

But did you ever think that being a part of a cattle drive while on a trip would be added to that list?

My sister, Mary, and I had that very opportunity to be a part of ACE’s first cattle drive. Forty head of cattle had to be moved from one pasture to another, which seems like a pretty straightforward task… except that the other pasture was over a half mile away and involved crossing the road, running through the open field at Llanrumney, down a trail through the bush and then through a series of gates. After a couple hours of running, yelling, waving our arms and sweating, the job was completed. While this was an exhilarating and somewhat hilarious experience, it was an event that really highlighted the new face of ACE.

Since Covid has had its grip on the world, you may think that the work of ACE has been slowed down like everything else – that is definitely not the case. When God opened the door for ACE to purchase the 800+ acre Llanrumney property about a year and a half ago, it seemed like a huge step to purchase this piece of land, but now, looking back, we see how God had his hand in it the whole time. Here, God has provided countless natural resources for the ministry to use and market, some yet to be discovered. It has opened the door to employ more single mothers, create a safe haven for families to spend quality time together and to have a larger impact in the local farming community.

And most importantly, it is opening doors for Marla and the staff to share the love of Christ to these individuals with whom they come in contact.

It has also allowed the ACE staff to grow stronger together as a family. To stand back and watch them work extremely hard together while laughing and joking with each other was such a joy. While waiting for the cows to decide to move in the right direction, I went down the list with some of the ladies of all the things they know how to do, from cleaning, cooking, construction, tutoring, planting, harvesting; the list goes on – and now includes cattle driving. Even though the mission teams are few, the work of ACE continues through its amazing staff who have developed new skills and such compassion for their community.

You may be thinking, does ACE need me anymore? Yes! They absolutely do, more than ever. All of this work is just in its beginning stages and there is so much to be done. I encourage you to get a small group of friends or family together and plan a trip down. Yes, there are a few more inconveniences that you have to experience to travel, but, in the end, it’s so worth it.

And if you’re not able to travel, there are other ways to be involved. Any financial contribution to help move the ministry in this direction would be of great benefit. Finally, you can be involved through prayer. Oswald Chambers writes, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” Pray for the ministry as it moves forward, for the staff, for finances and thank God for opening the doors that He has and the provisions He has given… even for the provision of cows to eat the lush grass that is on the land, God, in His foreknowledge, so graciously provided.

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Marla’s Minute: How The Pieces Fall Together

Marla’s Minute: How The Pieces Fall Together

ACE always has a great impact story every month. Personally, however, I often wrestle about how much to share. So many things happen on the ground that change our lives and my perspective daily that I struggle to give the details of how ACE made a particular person or family’s life better, safer, healthier.  It’s important that we protect the privacy of our families and individuals and not exploit them for the sake of the story. Every day is filled with specifics but we try to talk in generalities. I preface with this because I’m going to keep names out of this story in order to protect this family, but I still want you to see how, even in adversity, God shows up.

A mother with her two sons, one of whom has special needs, called our office in a hopeless state. This mother had taken care of a senior for many, many years when his own grown children did not. It was understood by everyone in the community that, when he passed, she and her boys would have a place to live as payment for her years of committed care for him.

After the older gentleman passed, the family decided that they wanted the space and caused a lot of strife in order to force her and her boys to leave. One day while she was out seeking work, they burned down the house. As a result, she and her two sons built what we would call a shell of a home to live in, with a dirt floor and no utilities or furniture to speak of.  Because the special-needs teenager was sponsored by a neat couple in the States, the mother felt her only avenue for help would be to call ACE.

Fast forward… a home that ACE built (thanks to another supporter) for Indian, our GLLF farm hand, was currently empty, clean, and ready for move-in. We had moved Indian to an apartment at the front of the farm for security duty. ACE created a job for this mother cleaning up at Buccaneers three days a week so that her sons can come to work with her and so her youngest, who is five, has access to internet for school at the ACE office.

Isn’t it amazing how the pieces fall together when God is involved? I often tell our friends who feel bad about not being able to physically be here to not sell themselves short. God loves the orphans and widows, and He certainly loves a cheerful giver. Thank you, cheerful givers, for changing the lives of these three individuals. One act of kindness (for Indian) ended up providing a life-saving opportunity for a family in need, a mother whose own act of kindness in life becomes repaid even when it seems hopeless. When you can get boots on the ground, you will meet our new family and, perhaps, she can tell you the story herself with all the details. As they say, God is good ALL the time.

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More Than A Vacation

More Than A Vacation

When ACE first came to St. Mary, we called it a Vacation with a Purpose. This was pre-Galina Breeze Hotel; we were staying in an older hotel across from the main road with a view of the beach and some garbage. We knew that when most people take a vacation from work, they want to sit and relax, but this was going to be different. It was a break from the everyday but with meaning… and a lot of work.

Speeding forward several decades, ACE has retooled. Due to the challenging times we live in, thanks to COVID, where organizations are not sending larger groups, we are taking this opportunity to step back and refocus on what individual volunteers can bring to the table. We are living out our saying of “Flexibility is the key to success” motto these days. Instead of us telling you what to do, you can tell us what fits best with your talents, skills and interests. We’ve created a new Impact Menu list for you to choose what projects and experiences suit you.

We still offer the opportunity for groups to come down together, but we know that there are many individuals who want to come and join up with other adventurous people to work together, serve the community and make a difference. We have several weeks set aside each month through March (with more to come the rest of the year) for you to choose what works for you.

Want to come on your own? Do you have a friend you think would be interested… or even your family or small group of friends? Check it out by clicking the button below. Consider it.  We can still change lives and transform communities – one volunteer at a time!

A Moment of Divine Clarity

A Moment of Divine Clarity

Our vision of “changing lives and transforming communities” is applicable to more than just the St. Mary community. Sometimes, the lives changed are those of the volunteers themselves. A long-time supporter of ACE (former intern and volunteer), Barret Bender, shares his story of how a seemingly simple interaction would someday become a moment of divine clarity.

I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember. I claim that I accepted Jesus into my heart in 4th grade at a Christian basketball camp at my local YMCA (the same YMCA I would later obsess over the circumference of my biceps), but truthfully I cannot remember making that decision. And I was always a little uninspired by my story – or really the absence of a story – of not having a real “come to Jesus” moment. Until mine happened. 

I was 17 and on my first mission trip in St. Mary, Jamaica. The organization we were working with had a really special relationship with the town’s infirmary, which was kind of like a hospital, except the people never get to go home. In fact, that is actually what delineates the two – a hospital is a place designed to diagnose and treat the sick, injured or dying, while an infirmary is a place where the sick, injured or dying are cared for. And to ensure there was no confusion, there was a sign in front of the building that read “St. Mary Infirmary: Home for the Poor and Destitute”.

We were there that day to take the residents on a field trip to the beach. For some, this would be their first time leaving the infirmary in a long time; for others, this would be their first time getting out of bed in a long time. 

The game plan was simple – each of us was to pair up with a resident and help them enjoy the beach however they wished to do so. 

When we got to the beach, I was paired with a man named Dino (pronunciation: d EE – n oh), who I quickly learned was deaf. He was younger than most of the residents – probably in his forties – and one of the few who was capable of and interested in getting in the ocean. And so into the ocean we went!

It was one of those gently sloping shores where it feels like you walk miles before the water gets to your waist. Following Dino’s cue, we set out for deeper waters. As we were wading, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was really needed. Unlike many of the other residents, who needed significant help just to sit up in the sand, Dino didn’t really need a partner – and aside from a smile here and there, I couldn’t even communicate with him.

When the water got a little above our waists, Dino started to slow down, and I could see his focus shift from his footing to the vastness of the ocean in front of us. And we just stood there in a kind of mutual appreciation.  

Then, before I could register what was happening, Dino threw his arm around my shoulders and kicked his legs up, as if he had stepped on something scary and never wanted to touch the ocean floor again. Instinctively, with one of his arms still around my shoulders, I extended my arms below his torso to help keep him afloat. And to my surprise, his face gave away that that was exactly what he was going for – he wanted me to hold him so that he could just float. And so there I was, standing in the Caribbean Sea, holding a 40-something year old Jamaican man.

I don’t know how much time passed, but the feeling that I wasn’t needed was quickly replaced by a deeper and stronger feeling that not only was I needed here this day, but that I was needed for all my days. I felt like I was experiencing in a new way, maybe even for the first time, what it was like to be the hands and feet of Christ, and that there was a calling on my life to do this kind of work – to help people like Dino stay afloat. 

When I got home from the trip, I couldn’t wait to tell people about my experience with Dino. For the first time in my life, I felt like there was a story related to my faith that was worth sharing. And so I did. I told my family. I told my friends. I told my youth group. I even told an atheist professor of mine, who was either so moved or so confused that he actually came to Jamaica with me the next summer to experience what I described for himself (which is a story for another time).

As time went on, though, my experience with Dino faded a bit in my memory. When I would think of it, I’d have mixed emotions. I’d think fondly of my time in Jamaica, but then I’d wonder if I was living out the calling on my life that I discovered through my experience with Dino. I’d struggle to think of any recent examples where I was being the hands and feet of Christ, and I was having a hard time reconciling what that was supposed to look like throughout different seasons of life. 

And then one morning, almost nine years after that first trip to Jamaica, I was drinking coffee at my kitchen table before work when out of nowhere a thought crossed my mind that I don’t think was my own (that’s one of the ways Christians believe God speaks). And the thought was this: that I had gotten the story of Dino all wrong. I was not the hands and feet of Christ to Dino that day – I was Dino. I was and still am poor and destitute, with no way of swimming, of even holding my head above water, without Jesus.

And right there at my kitchen table, over 1,500 miles from the shores of Jamaica, I realized I’d just had a real “come to Jesus” moment.

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